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Old 04-01-2012, 12:20 AM   #1
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Post Turn, Magic Wheel by Dawn Powell

What are your thoughts on Turn, Magic Wheel?

Everyone is welcome to join in the discussion.

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Old 04-01-2012, 09:03 AM   #2
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With Shutter Island in mind, so no one gets blindsided, I want to point out that Dennis Orphen is an anagram for "sinner phoned." Discuss.
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Old 04-04-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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I just finished it and am still processing it. It was a strange mixture of satire, emotional insight and being so referential of its time period and particularly NYC culture of that period that I got a workout with my smartphone looking things up as I read.

Having lived in NYC, it was interesting reading a book that is so referential to particular areas that I know so well decades later. Union Square area, which I've lived near, is very different today from the type of neighbourhood it seemed back then, so it was interesting to really see it being alive at that time period. Also, by looking up a reference in the book I learned some NYC history, such as why Chelsea is named Chelsea. It wasn't what I would've assumed! It's amazing to think that not too long ago relatively, the area Chelsea was one large "uptown" and "country" estate.

I found the humour in the beginning and ending of the book the best. Here are two of my last notes that cracked me up:

Quote:
"She wished Olive would move to California and never write to her, so she could have a really good reason for being mad at her."
and

Quote:
"Sentences floated through the air like autumn leaves, voices said they did or did not believe in palmistry but on the contrary did not or did believe in astrology. An ex-Central American president and an ex-Metropolitan singer noisily agreed that they did believe in black cats and Friday the thirteenth because of certain curious experiences they were only too happy to relate."
It's interesting how here we are so much later and yet that last quote still rings so true.
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Old 04-05-2012, 05:52 PM   #4
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I've not finished the book, but so far I am conscious of a stylistic brilliance which is at least the equal of anything I have read written then or since.

Last edited by fantasyfan; 04-06-2012 at 02:31 AM.
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Old 04-10-2012, 08:23 PM   #5
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First I really want to thank issybird for this month's selection. It is a book I never would have chosen for myself in a million years but I enjoyed it immensely on many levels. I've only been a member of the literary book club for a few months but already it has greatly expanded my reading horizons.

Comedy, romance, perhaps unintentional recording of the history of the period, tragedy, there is so much going on.

The writing style almost put me off during the first few pages but once I figured out her style I was hooked and it became easy reading. By the end I was reading a bit too quickly as I was anxious to know how the story turned out.

I don't know why but I'm always surprised by frank writing of love triangles and affairs before the sixties' sexual revolution. I know I shouldn't be surprised as human desired did not change in the sixties but I always expected no more than hints of it in literature from this time. Roaring twenties, flappers, again I shouldn't be surprised but found it surprisingly modern in many ways.

The ten word telegram limit reminded me of the modern text message and tweet sizes! Funny thing to think I am sure.

The last page is one of my favorite parts! I won't quote it for fear of ruining the ending but it was so nicely done, just a perfect final page to turn.

I virtually dog eared so many pages of the Kobo ebook, so many funny lines and scenes. It would make for an interesting play or movie. Perhaps I will quote a few passages in another posting.

Last edited by hpulley; 04-10-2012 at 08:26 PM.
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Old 04-13-2012, 11:32 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by hpulley View Post
First I really want to thank issybird for this month's selection. It is a book I never would have chosen for myself in a million years but I enjoyed it immensely on many levels. I've only been a member of the literary book club for a few months but already it has greatly expanded my reading horizons.

Comedy, romance, perhaps unintentional recording of the history of the period, tragedy, there is so much going on.
Ditto!!

I mentioned the stylistic brilliance earlier and when I finished the book, I felt no reason to modify that remark. Dawn Powell conveys an effortlessness in her remarkable range of tone and register. I was amazed by the sequence ending Part I: . . . salt over left shoulder . . . {Pages 75-85 in the pb.}
The author's ironic distance is combined with a ghastly horror that could almost have come out of Sheridan LeFanu's imaginative world.

I was impressed by the skilful study of the theme centering around the development of self-awareness in various characters. Powell presents the theme as a continuum--not a final goal. In one sense, the "Magic Wheel" could be the evolving wheel of self consciousness. Dennis, Effie {I love her!}, Corinne, and Andy {perhaps} all demonstrate this psychological growth in different ways. How and Why they do so requires some probing by the reader.

And why do some characters never develop as human beings? They remain locked in a pattern that they seem to accept--even if they are aware of that situation. Tony Glaenzer is an example. Is it that they have totally misconstrued the meaning of self-hood? Perhaps some--such as Okie and his satellites--don't even know that they are little more than puppets in an arbitrary social system.

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Old 04-13-2012, 03:34 PM   #7
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I loved the Effie character too. It was sad to read about her for much of the book but she came around to the self realization you mention in the end though the last page indicates a less than perfect ending for her. Earlier...

Quote:
Effie drew her hand away from his suddenly and when he lifted his eyebrows
-
"I don't like my hand held just because somebody's thrilled over music or a sunset," she whispered.

"You want it to be sheer lust, eh?" he accused her, shocked.
Some favorite quotes, here some wonderful prose and a bit of self reflection for the Readers too I think, "...in the reading rooms of the Forty-second street library countless persons absorbed in books (why absorbed? What do they read? Why do they read it?) look up and away; what sentence stirred what memories so that interlacing thoughts float through glass and steel to faraway, to places you will never know, dwell familiarly on faces you will never see." I felt that way by the end about 1930's NYC and the characters who became quite familiar.
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Old 04-13-2012, 03:44 PM   #8
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Same page, just fun, "He crouched over the piano with his big hands cupping the keys as if a mouse might peep out of his fist once he relaxed. Softly his fingers in ten little bedroom slippers tiptoed up and down Schumann, music became so diminished under his microscope, made so tiny and perfect it could be neatly placed inside a baby's ear." How did she come up with that???
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Old 04-21-2012, 04:37 AM   #9
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I finished the book last night, so I think I need to mull over it a bit more, so here are jsut first impressions - but first of all I also want to thank Issybird as I did not even know Dawn Powell existed. To summarise what has been already written, she is simply a great writer: what a great craftmanship.

Perhaps the only negative point for me is the "scene" with Andy: to me he was a bit too much of a caricature in his total disregard for others and utter lack of empathy, too much of a total fool.

Besides this, I really liked Powell giving shadows to each of the main characters: even Effie's sense of triumph in the end is somewhat toned down by her being unable to get him to acknowledge her: she has to compromise and project a different woman to what she is.

I also surprised myself by quite liking Orphen!
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Old 05-06-2012, 01:07 AM   #10
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I enjoyed this book. I had trouble getting into it at the beginning and had to start over and re-read the first 40 pages or so. I wish that I knew something about New York to appreciate the descriptions of the city. I was really drawn into the story once Effie receives the note from the hospital regarding Mrs Andrew Callingham. The writing was very excellent, and I did a lot of highlighting (more than typical!).

How could you not root for Effie? Her pain felt so raw. I was so proud of her when she changed her name on her apartment. It must have been heart-wrenching to be so kind to Marian on her deathbed. You want her to be awakened to find herself. Let that dream crash into dust and discover a life that's not built around a worthless dream.

This description really hit me:
Quote:
Inextricably she and Marian were bound together, waiting for him to come to them across the world, waiting for him to prove he did care, he did love - which woman was not the issue now. Demanded now was proof of love stronger than his own ambition or his present lust. For Marian, dying, and for Effie, long believing, there must be testimony that here was a man worth death and endless fidelty.
The scene between Andrew & Effie just verified that he was a complete cad. He represents a dream, a caricature, a memory, a newspaper headline. I suppose he didn't need to be developed any deeper.

i liked Dennis better as the book progressed and his character develops more self-awareness. I enjoyed the description of curiosity as his muse. One wouldn't have expected him to leave his own literary tea for his book at the beginning. Somewhere along the way he describes his friendship with Effie like armor from the outside world. I liked this quote at the end too:

Quote:
Losing her as a character under his control, Dennis was alarmed; now she was as baffling to him as himself, unpredictable, unanswerable, and he feared she was becoming to much a part of himself.
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Old 05-06-2012, 06:31 AM   #11
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The beginning took me a while to get through as well while I was blasting through the end to see what happens... Great book, excellent writing.
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